Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Don’t you just love Pandas? How can you not? They’re such cuddly little furry guys. Well, some of them aren’t so little but even the Giant Pandas are still cute and cuddly. Having said that, it’s sad to bid a fond farewell to a couple of lovable pandas that are about to leave zoos in the United States for new homes in China. It’s all good, as they are simply moving into the next phase of the panda conservation and breeding program.

Even so, they’ll be missed by panda lovers back here. If you hurry, you can still visit and say good by to Tai Shan at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. The last day is Wednesday, February 3. Visitors can get panda buttons at the and the opportunity to send a goodbye card that will be sent to China. On February 4, Tai Shan leaves the Zoo for Dulles International Airport and a direct flight to Chengdu, China. He’ll be accompanied by Mei Lan, a three-year-old female panda born at the Atlanta Zoo.

The Giant Panda is native to mountain ranges in central China and is one of the world’s most beloved and endangered species. Habitat loss coupled with a naturally very low birthrate have made conservation efforts critical if future generations are to have the same pleasure of their company as we do. Right now there are as few as 1600 giant pandas in the bamboo forests of China plus another 160 or so in zoos and breeding centers around the world.

All pandas in American zoos are leased from China for terms of 10 years, with the provision that offspring born in the zoos are to be sent to China. Tai Shan was born in 2005 to Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the National Zoo’s second pair of giant pandas. Mei Lan was born in 2006 at the Atlanta Zoo to parents Lun Lun and Yang Yang.

If you have succumbed to “panda-monium” or simply enjoy visiting them at zoos, watching their stories on TV nature shows or viewing their antics on YouTube videos, you may be interested in some of the Tai Shan memorabilia offered by the National Zoo. They’ve got postage stamps, key chains, magnets, mugs, socks plush pandas and T-shirts. The Atlanta Zoo even has a Giant Panda Cub-to-Go box with a plush panda cub, photo collage, giant panda fact sheet, cub photo and personalized certificate of sponsorship. Your purchase supports panda cub care at the Atlanta Zoo and conservation work they do around the world.

Another way to show your interest in pandas is by wearing the Panda Poken. This clever little guy not only reaches out a hand in friendship, but acts as your personal assistant in sharing contact information with other Poken wearers you meet. You simply touch the hands of the Poken together and they glow green indicating and an electronic interchange has taken place. You can each plug your Poken into your PCs or Macs and sync your contacts on your personal online Poken Hub. It gives you a picture of the person you met, along with whatever contact information they want to share. That’s things like name, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN pages, and perhaps phone number. It’s so much cooler than the old paper business cards. You’ll find yourself on the lookout for other Poken and may even want to give them as gifts... especially to anyone suffering from panda separation anxiety.

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